Consolation Champ hold album release, offer inspiration while aging

Bloomington’s Consolation Champ perform at the Parkway Theater on April 14, 2024. (FOX 9)

An old adage in rock and roll ponders whether it’s better to burn out than to fade away, but with a new album and accompanying release, Consolation Champ has set out to prove you can also age gracefully.

The four longtime friends that make up the band returned on April 14 for a show at the Parkway Theater in Minneapolis to celebrate their latest release, "Shorthand for a Long Walk", while finding inspiration in playing together again for friends and family – an act that’s becoming fewer and further between.

"Shorthand is the things I want to keep in mind in this next stage of life, and the long walk is like life… That’s a little cheesy, but hey, I’m a 42-year-old dad," front man John Richards says with a laugh. "It’s kind of liberating to feel like we can move at our own pace now."

The band began nearly 20 years ago, but its members knew each other well before from their days in a Bloomington elementary school.

In the early 2000s, the band were active throughout the Twin Cities music scene, cutting their teeth at places such as the 400 Bar and Uptown Bar.

But as is the case with many bands whose core is in their early 20s, times changed and life took them in different directions with both careers and kids.

As they’ve aged, for Richards and bandmates Chris and Matt Mitchell, and Rick Nordquist, there’s a collective joy in maintaining a creative outlet around the responsibilities that life now presents.

"It’s important to have a creative outlet, especially as life grows and families get fuller. It doesn’t have to be as big of a chunk of time as before, but even a little bit of time to write a song gives a lot of energy," Richards said. "It’s fun to see kids start to discover their own music as well. I hope we’re showing our kids that you can continue to have fun and play music even if it’s not a full-time job."

The new album took nearly four years to create, with band practices over early morning coffee – a far cry from the Saturday night bars.

"We’ve had practices at 9 a.m., and ones with kids running around. It’s evolved for sure, but we’re embracing the dad rock," Richards said.

The album release show was purposely set for an earlier time, at a family-friendly venue.

"We wanted to make it family friendly in large part because a lot of our friends and family have kids, so we didn’t want a lack of babysitters to be a reason not to be able to attend," Richards said. "It’s not a kids show, but I think most bands’ music will be family friendly enough."

Appreciative of their new chapter, the band doesn’t go entirely dormant throughout the year, but continues its annual tradition of playing a Christmas Eve-Eve benefit show – one they’ve kept alive for 18 years, raising more than $12,000 for organizations like Second Harvest Heartland, Pillsbury United Communities, and The Boys & Girls Clubs programs in the process.

"As long as we’ve had it on the calendar, I think it’s kind of always given us a reason to keep playing," Richards said. "We love to play music together. We’ve never stopped playing, which is the part that I think I’m most grateful for."

As for what the future of Consolation Champ is, Richards insists it is much like having kids – learn as you go, and take it as it comes.

"I’ll just try to do the best I can do between prioritizing writing songs, and a family I love and a career I enjoy," Richards said. "And if this inspires someone to start something creative, or restart something creative – that would be awesome."